INTERVIEW: Joe Cotela of DED (August 2021)

More than four years—and one pandemic—after releasing its debut album, “Mis-An-Thrope,” DED is set to return with its full-length follow-up in October 2021. The band has been sitting on the new record since the world shut down, and after releasing three songs in 2020, it recently dropped its first new music of 2021, the single “Kill Beautiful Things.” DED also is gearing up to hit the road in September, on a tour with In This Moment and Black Veil Brides topping the bill and also featuring Raven Black. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with DED frontman Joe Cotela to discuss the new album, touring and more.

LIVE METAL: So DED just put out a new single, “Kill Beautiful Things.” What is it like on your end when you put out new music? I’m sure you’re excited, especially since I think you’ve been sitting on this for a while, but are you nervous about how people will react to it?

JOE COTELA

JOE COTELA: I guess you go through different phases, because there’s always a little bit of sitting on music for a little while. There’s times when you’re stoked, and there’s time when you’re questioning yourself. I think all artists do that. There’s excitement. This time around, we already have an album out, so people kind of expect a sound from you, which we didn’t have on that first one. I’ve been releasing music for a long time with different bands, so it’s mostly excitement, really, honestly. If you make something you’re proud of and put it out, it should just be excitement. I guess that was kind of back and forth, but it really is a mixed bag.

This song definitely sounds like DED, but it has a little bit of a different sound to it—not so much the nu metal influences heard here. Is that the direction you’re moving into on the new album?

There is plenty of, I feel like, the nu metal vibe on the new album. I felt like on the first album, we really put ourselves in a bit of a box. It was very heavily nu metal influenced with mixes of punk and metal and hardcore. It was four years ago and six years ago when we were writing the songs. So I feel like when the new album comes out, there’s still plenty of that influence, but there’s just a lot more. This is probably the lightest song on the album, too, and maybe the most melodic. I don’t know. There’s a lot more melody and whatnot in the newer stuff. I just feel like we tried to do a lot of different things and didn’t need to be like, “OK, we need to remake our first album.” It’s already there. We’re always gonna play those songs live. I think the new album is very diverse.

What is this song, “Kill Beautiful Things,” about?

For me—and I kind of like to leave things up for interpretation for people, so I’m always a little hesitant to say what it is about—but to me, it’s about in life, you go through different things. You start out in a certain place. As you get older, you go out into the world, and you have to survive. You have to do things that maybe you’re not proud of—whatever it is, like fighting people. It’s such a hard thing for me to put into words, but it’s like you kind of develop this fight fire with fire mentality a little bit. I don’t know if that’s ego or what it is exactly, but there’s a point for me where going through a lot of the strife and struggle in life where you look at yourself and you don’t feel like you are your best self in a way and you have to take a step back and look at it. And it’s like you want to be this amazing person, this ideal version of yourself, and sometimes you end up finding out that you’re not at times, and you need to go back to your roots, remember who you are and find that love and that innocence and that purity that you started life out with, before you’re influenced by the darkness in the world. That darkness gets inside of you, and so it’s kind of like an internal struggle vibe for me.

I was wondering if this song was related in any way to the song “Beautiful” from the first album.

No, it’s not, actually, really at all. They’re two completely different thoughts. But I thought of that, too, and I know that they both have the word beautiful in the title, as well. They’re both coming from my brain, so maybe they are correlated in a way but not intentionally.

How long have you been sitting on the new album?

We were gonna release it right at the beginning of the pandemic. So that was a long time ago. And it was ready for a little while before that, too. So about two years. It was an excruciating wait. We’re still waiting a little bit, but it looks like it’s gonna be Oct. 15, what I’m hearing, for the album now. So we should be releasing the artwork and the track listing and everything pretty soon. But yeah, it was a long, long time. It was terrible.

John Feldmann produced the first album. Who did you work with on this one?

The new one was Kevin Churko. He’s the man. Shout out.

What was it like working with him? He’s one of the big producers in metal right now.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s an honor to work with him. Working with Feldmann, working with Kevin, you look up to them in a way. When you go in there, you respect them already, and then you get to meet them as human beings, past their work and whatnot, and Kevin was fantastic. Just a great guy, very laid back. A lot of conversation. A lot of just talking and getting close, almost more than working on music some days, which is great because I feel like it really creates a closeness. He’s the one pressing the buttons recording, obviously, molding the songs as well, but to really know each other, I think, is imperative when you’re recording something, for him to really understand me as a human being and for me to understand him as a human being. Luckily, we were on the same page in a lot of ways. I enjoyed it thoroughly to conversate with him. He has so many stories. He worked with Mutt Lange on Def Leppard—crazy things like that. The history that he’s been around—he’s worked with the legends. So it was an honor. His sonic abilities are just incredible, and he really just makes everything sound so good all the time. He makes you sound better than you are (laughs). I couldn’t say enough about him. He’s great.

Did you record out in Vegas with him?

Yeah, we were out there at the Hideout for, probably cummatively, like four months, which was awesome. We would leave and go on tour and then come back, so it was really cool. He’s always working on stuff. They were doing In This Moment around the same time and Five Finger Death Punch—their last albums that came out. Us being the newer band there, we’d never been there before, so we kind of worked in and out of everything. But it was great. I felt like I kind of lived in Vegas in a way, which was really fun. I know my way around there now. It’s fun to do that and really get to know areas. I had only lived in Arizona at that point, and so it was really fun to feel like I lived there for a little while and get to know it, get to know the vibe there, the culture there and everything. It was really fantastic.

It seems like there could be a lot of distractions out there if you let that happen.

There could be. Absolutely. It was interesting. Being from Arizona, it’s only four or five hours from us, so I’ve been there a handful of times just to go out there and rage or whatever. So it wasn’t a brand new thing where I was like I need to go soak up the Strip. I don’t even think I went to the casinos one time, honestly. Because the studio is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s like my Disneyland, especially a studio like that. It’s such a beautiful studio. I’d never been in such a nice studio before. It’s huge. The way they run things there is fantastic and so conducive for creativity. So, yeah, you could get sidetracked, for sure. Everything’s right there at your fingertips, but I think the music part of it overshadows that. That’s more fun to me. We’ll have some beers, smoke a little bit at the studio, of course, but we really focused on work, and it was great.

You have a new guitarist (Alex Adamcik) in the band. When did that change happen? Was he a part of the recording of the new album?

He’s a longtime friend. He’s been in bands for a long time in Arizona. He always printed all the DED merch, and he would come out and he was our merch guy. So he was out on tour with us for a long time, and he was a part of everything. As we were writing for the new album, before we went in there, he was with our bass player Kyle (Koelsch). He was writing, and then our other guitar player wrote in his studio a little bit. It was just kind of like this thing of it’s just friends and they were working on music. Everybody sent it to me so I can try to sing over it and see what vibes with us. He had written “Kill Beautiful Things,” and that was just how that one turned out. It was cool that it turned out that way, where he got into the band about six months to a year ago. We didn’t really announce much of it. So it just worked out that he got into the band at the same time as the song he wrote with us is coming out. It was totally random, but it worked out really great in that sense.

In a couple weeks, you’re going out on tour, which I’m sure you must be really excited for. How long ago was your last show?

It was February of 2020, I believe. We did a little run in Europe with Wage War, we did Shiprocked, we got back, and then we did a fly date in Spokane. It was right before everything closed down, so we got really lucky with the cruise ship stuff and all that business. We were seeing those cruise ships, maybe three weeks after we got back. We’re seeing all that stuff happening, and we felt very grateful that we got back unscathed. So yeah, it’s been a long time.

As you said, the album was done, ready to go, before the pandemic hit and then, obviously, delayed. During all that time, what was the band up to? I know you shot a few videos, but were you tempted to go back and work on the songs more or write more or anything like that?

We’ve written a lot. We stayed busy. I’ve been in New York with my girlfriend, Maria (Brink), and the guys were all in Arizona, so for the whole pandemic we were separated. But it’s cool with technology now, you can send stuff back and forth. We’ve written, probably, another album of songs. Whether they would all make the album or not, I don’t know if they’re all worthy of that. I started writing, creating some weird electronic stuff that was kind of dark, industrial stuff that I was just doing with a friend, as well. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day, but it was something I just had to create. I had to be doing something. I also started a T-shirt brand called Neon God, getting into designing and creating and things like that. Just stayed really busy.

We really have been writing a lot—and all kinds of different things, different kinds of stuff for DED and seeing what fits in with it and what doesn’t. I thought about going back and changing a few things, which you usually don’t have that ability to do. It’s usually you record it, you release it and you go on tour. But I didn’t change anything. I think we really nailed it. Especially with Kevin, he nails his mixes and nails the songs so good. There really wasn’t a lot of that afterthought to be like, “Let’s change it.” But that would be a cool thing to happen. We’ve never really done that. The album is great. I still can’t wait to release it. I still love it. I still listen to it. I’ll skip a couple of weeks, and maybe like once or twice a month, I’ll throw it on and just jam it. I’m like, “Cool, I still love this,” and that’s a really good thing.

Yeah, especially since you’re gonna be playing some of those songs every night pretty soon.

Absolutely, yeah, because you could be sick of your album after two years. But we haven’t been touring on it, playing it and hearing it as consistently as you usually would. Another cool thing is to have it and digest it to really know it. Because oftentimes, like I was saying, you record it, you release it, it’s still so new to you, and people are asking you about it, and you’re like, “I don’t even really know what it is yet. I just put it down and recorded it.” So, in this instance, when we come out on the next run and when the album comes out, we’ll be fully engulfed in the whole thing. It’s a little different. It’s cool.

How do you feel about going out on tour right now? Things are still pretty uncertain, and we’re seeing postponements and cancellations all the time.

I’m excited to go on tour. Of course, you have that reluctance with everything that’s happening, but I see a lot of tours happening, and I see them doing well. I’m hearing that a lot of people are coming to the shows. I saw that the Metal Tour of the Year, with Megadeth and Trivium and Hatebreed and Lamb of God, they just sold out in Arizona in our hometown. I’m hearing different people saying that merch is selling great. The tour we’re on is selling so well. So it seems like people are hungry to get back out. I know I am. I want to play, but I can’t wait to watch other bands, too, and just experience it as a fan and as a performer, both.

To stay as healthy as we can, we’re gonna have to keep it locked down and keep it tight backstage and whatnot. I know they’re putting a lot of safety precautions and measures into effect, and we’re gonna follow them so we can stay busy and go back and do what we’re supposed to. We haven’t been able to work in almost two years. It sucks for us. And I always preface that with I know other people have it worse than us. But it still sucks that we can’t play shows. So it’s really, really exciting to play again. Maria and I were watching the Lollapalooza stream on Hulu, and just seeing that vibe, the crowd and people enjoying themselves, it gave me chills to see it again.

Yeah, just yesterday, actually, I went to my first show in what felt like 10 years or so, and it didn’t even matter which bands were playing. Just to see live music again was incredible.

Who’d you check out?

Seven or eight bands were playing. Black Stone Cherry was the headliner. Pop Evil and some others were there, too.

That’s awesome. We toured with the Pop Evil guys. They’re great dudes, a fun bunch. That’s awesome. Randomly, I caught an AC/DC cover band up in the mountains by my parents’ place in Arizona. I think they were called AZ/DC because of Arizona. It was kind of watching live music, because there were like 10 people watching or something like that. But just to feel that kick drum in your chest was awesome. So I kind of got to see something, and it was really fun. I can’t wait to do more.

Your tour is with In This Moment, Black Veil Brides and, also, Raven Black. Obviously, you’ve toured within In This Moment and you know them, but do you know Black Veil Brides and Raven Black?

I know the Black Veil Brides guys. They do their albums with John Feldmann, as well, so we were in the studio around the same time as them. As well as mutual friends. Matt Good, he got married, and Andy (Biersack) was the best man of that. So we’ve been around each other for different things like that. So that’ll be cool. I’ve never met Raven Black, though.

Aside from the shows themselves, what are you most looking forward to about touring? What have you missed the most?

I think traveling is fun. Being in different places is fun. Playing in new venues, things like that. Definitely food. Maria and I are mapping out some good spots to eat at some of these places when we have a day off. Food is huge, and it’s super fun to go to new places and taste the vibe of that location and whatever that has to offer. So I look forward to those things and, really, just that freedom. We’ve been in our houses so much. The freedom of just being out on the open road, just like the American Dream thing. You’re running around the country, and there’s this beautiful freedom. You’re driving out into the unknown, and who knows what exciting things lay on the other side of that. It’s an adventure.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I appreciate everybody’s love. I appreciate the great feedback on the song so far. It seems like people are enjoying it. I can’t wait for everybody to get the rest of the album. And thanks for having me and hanging.

LINKS:
www.dedband.com
www.facebook.com/dedofficial
www.twitter.com/WeAreDED
www.instagram.com/dedofficial
www.youtube.com/dedofficial

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